Summary: Lost people often use our failure to live as we ought to justify their rejection of Christ. While we cannot excuse them, we must know that we do offend. Therefore, we require grace to honour God and to avoid giving offence to the lost.

“Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” [1]

We’ve each undoubtedly heard someone say at one time or another, “If that’s the way Christians act, I want nothing to do with their God!” People that make such statements often speak out of their anger because they can’t have their way. In their rage, they want to strike out to hurt Christians who love them and who long to see them fulfilled by the love of Christ. Lashing out, they assail the one thing they know that Christians value—their relationship with the Saviour.

I know a young woman who rejected God and all that is righteous in her youth. She had a tempestuous relationship with her mother and a tenuous relationship with her grandparents who loved her dearly. In a rage against her mother, this young woman even refused to permit her mother to visit her first grandchild. That girl’s mother was taken with a severe illness that would eventually result in death. Grief-stricken, the young woman rushed to her mother’s bedside, though her mother was comatose and incapable of acknowledging anyone’s presence. When her mother succumbed to that illness, that young woman raged, calling God a filthy name because He allowed her mother to die.

What is tragic about this story is that the mother knew Christ as Saviour and had prayed for that young woman, as had many others who knew that girl. That young woman had rejected Christ and refused to have anything to do with God, and yet she cursed God when her mother died. She hasn’t the capacity to see what she has become, but that young woman has made herself the centre of her universe. When her mother died the young woman became enraged at God because He did not acknowledge her as the rightful claimant to the throne of her life. She wanted to have her way, imagining that God must obey her. She was enraged because she cannot dethrone God, and she was determined to show Him the way things must be.

Whenever I witness such puerile, infantile behaviour, I recall an oft-delivered sermon among black saints in an earlier day. The preacher simply said, “Puny little man, your arms are too short to box with God.” Ain’t it true! Ain’t it true!

That same young woman had earlier been angry at her grandfather because he wouldn’t affirm her in her rebellion. She blustered, “If that’s the way Christians act, I want nothing to do with his God.” It is a convenient excuse to continue living without regard for what is righteous, but it must be seen for what it is—an excuse and not a reason. The great tragedy of such stories is that the young woman must bear the consequences of her own choices. The failures—real or imagined—of the saints do not excuse her own wicked choices. When judgement comes, and it shall assuredly come, her grandfather will grieve, but he shall give God glory for His justice and His goodness.

GOD’S EXPECTATION FOR HIS PEOPLE — “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honourable” [1 PETER 2:11-12a]. Writing the Christians in Rome, Paul makes a sage, though sorrowful, observation of the rebellious. Paul writes, “Although [the lost] know God’s just requirement—that those who practise such things deserve to die—they not only do these things but even applaud others who practise them” [ROMANS 1:32]. The lost seek affirmation that they aren’t so bad; and the easiest way for them to attempt to maintain this position is to point out what they imagine to be hypocrisy in the saints of the Most High God.

I would never suggest that we who follow the Saviour are to attempt to be plastic saints, living without any flaws and never doing or saying things which are either unadvisable or foolish. We often heard from Christians in an earlier day, “Please be patient with me; God is not finished with me yet.” We seemingly forget that we are saved, not perfected. We are being perfected, but we have not yet arrived. The Galatians, and hence, we also are challenged, when Paul asks, “Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh” [GALATIANS 3:3]? We know the will of God, and we are open about our need to be holy and righteous.

I suppose that each of us has read or heard the admonition the Apostle has written in the Ephesian Encyclical. “Be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

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